'Crumbs are part of who we are': General Mills defends its messy Nature Valley bars

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Nature Valley

One minute, you're opening a harmless snack. The next, you're in a heap of what looks like sawdust and oats.

This is what enjoying a Nature Valley granola bar looks like.

Nature Valley bars have a near-mythic quality about them. They've been around for 42 years, but only in recent years have the memes and gifs and YouTube skits taken over - all to emphasize that, if you want to enjoy one, some tidying up will be in order.

Turns out General Mills is well aware of this controversy, and it has some choice words for the haters: Get over it. (Or, as the Nature Valley Twitter account sassily recommends in its pinned tweet, "EMBRACE THE CRUMBS.")

"We like to think we don't take ourselves too seriously," Mike Siemienasset, a General Mills spokesperson, said when asked if General Mills has ever considered changing the recipe to make the bars less messy.

"Crumbs are a part of who we are," he said, "and our consumers respond positively when we embrace the crumbs. It's a great way for our brand to have a two-way, light-hearted conversation with consumers. Why would we change that?"

Some people may have an answer.

Nature Valley bars have their roots in the early 1970s, when a General Mills researcher decided to get crafty and cut the oven-baked oat mixture into bars instead of crumbling them into bits. " From that point, our Crunchy Granola Bars have been an iconic product for the Nature Valley brand, crumbs and all," Siemienasset said.

He couldn't point to an exact moment when the bars became an Internet sensation. But there have been General Mills meetings to discuss the best crumb-marketing strategies.

"It's not every day you get to brainstorm ways you can make emoji art or gifs out of crumbs," Siemienasset said.

That's not to say the company doesn't respond to critics' pleas. It still needs to retain its status as the number-one granola bar in American households.

For instance, Siemienasset says developers recently changed the formula to make the granola bars easier to bite. (Anything to prevent the bars requiring excess force, upping the crumb production unnecessarily.)

But asked if General Mills would ever consider changing the recipe to minimize the crumbs, Siemienasset held firm.

"When you have a crunchy granola product, some crumbs are to be expected," he said.

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